Saturday, June 20, 2015

What we're reading: Twisty Thriller


On my way home for the weekend, I always check the New Books shelves, just in case, and this weekend I lucked out--there was a new mystery by Sharon Bolton. I have positively reviewed both her early standalone books and her Lacey Flint series here, and I was excited to get my hands on Little Black Lies.

The story takes place on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, and begins with Catrin Quinn, from whom a terrible tragedy took everything, leaving her alone, bitter, and numb. The three-year anniversary of the tragedy is approaching, and Catrin is planning an act of revenge against its perpetrator. Then a child goes missing on the island, and participating in the search for him brings her back together with people and events from the past as fingers are pointed and hysteria begins to rise.


I enjoyed every element of this book. The story unfolds slowly, from the viewpoint of three different characters. Rather than skipping back and forth between narrators, the author lets you really get to know them one at a time: Catrin, Callum, then Rachel. With each one, you think you have gotten to some basic truth of what's going on, only to think again when the next is introduced. Catrin Quinn seems like a grim fate waiting to happen, and it's painful seeing things through her eyes; her ex lover, Callum, is troubled (he is a veteran of the Falklands conflict, with symptoms of PTSD), yet benign and supportive of others; and Catrin's ex best friend Rachel, the author of all their troubles with her irresponsible action of three years past, is the least sympathetic focus until you hear the story in her voice for the last third of the book. Each segue gives you a new perspective and makes you more desperate to finally learn the truth; and what a truth it turns out to be! Bolton hangs onto your breathless attention until the very last sentence. (You crazy people who read the last page first, don't do it!)

The characterizations were thorough and evocative. Everyone in this book lives—no one is just background—from the shaggy, stoned beachcomber to the police officers who don't want to believe there is a child abductor in their small community. Even if a character is shrouded from view in some way, the sense of him or her comes across. This is a skilled writer of personalities.

The world-building was likewise fantastic. The unusual setting—the Falkland Islands—is unknown to most, and so will have a fascination just from that standpoint, but Bolton didn't skimp on her research, and the wealth of physical detail and description (particularly of the natural characteristics of the island and the sea creatures) give a further richness to the story.

Bottom line, though, it's a mesmerizing, twisty, crazy good thriller. Best Sharon Bolton to date, and that's saying something!



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